The Story Of A Nobody Who Saved Everybody
Due to its absolutely ridiculous title, I completely dismissed the 2009 release Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs but after I found out that Lord and Miller were the same guys who directed 21 Jump Street, I gave it a chance and, like Despicable Me, it’s a delightful example of how touching, beautiful, simple and unique family cinema can be without resorting to watered-down, cheesy tropes that “kid’s animation” is often subjected to. In the same way, when The Lego Movie was announced to the world, I rolled my eyes and sighed heavily, believing such an undertaking would be a poor executed commercial for toys like Mac And Me or Batman & Robin. Instead, it’s a rich, clever and very funny release fit for the whole family – and not in the god-awful way that Shrek proclaimed to be, just because it contained innuendo that went over kids’ heads.
In a world made entirely of Lego, a corrupt overseer President Business (voiced by Will Ferrell) who also goes by Lord Business, is set on perfection and order. There are countless rules to abide by in his Lego metropolis, all of which are followed dutifully by the doting citizens. One citizen in particular, Emmet Brickowski [Pratt] loves his life as a simple construction worker but is distinctly aware that he lacks any real friends. One day after work, Emmet encounters an attractive young lady digging amongst the rubble. Her name is Wildstyle [Banks] and she is desperately searching for a special Lego piece which will fulfil a prophecy and help overthrow Lord Business. Enamoured with Wildstyle, Emmet attempts to follow her and in doing so, stumbles across the fabled piece. From here, Emmet is introduced to the wizard Vitruvius [Freeman] and they set out on a quest to rid the world of oppressive totalitarian rule. All the while, Emmet is distinctly aware that he is probably not the prophesised ‘special’ but fears losing his new friends more than being discovered as a fraud.
Aside from the simple premise, The Lego Movie is crammed with an abundance of personality. By utilising some of the best underrated comedic talent, each of the central characters are memorable and distinctly hilarious. Chris Pratt is going from strength to strength and as a Parks And Recreation fan, I couldn’t be more pleased. His whimsical innocence, naivety and outlandish zeal are perfect for Emmet and something family cinema has been missing in a lead character for quite some time. Equally, Banks’ fiery Wildstyle should be a carbon copy of a thousand other poorly written ‘action girls’ but she’s a genuinely rounded and entertaining character. In recent years Will Ferrell has made appearances in some of the worst films and some of the worst roles (Land Of The Lost, people) but this movie really captures a side of the actor that we haven’t seen since Stranger Than Fiction. Combining something both silly and maniacal but also strangely relatable and very surprisingly touching.
Visually, the film is a wonder. Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs was a very deceptive release. Despite the obviously cartoonish populace, the surrounding town looked almost photorealistic at times. Throughout the movie, you nod along with the action and enjoy the stop-motion elements but it’s only when you see the live-action sequences that you fully appreciate that none of the movie is actually stop-motion, it’s entirely CGI. And that fact is astonishing. For better or worse, great lengths have been gone to, to ensure that what you are seeing on-screen looks and feels like it could have been produced by anyone with a Lego set and a big imagination. Having said that, there is a slight downside – probably one of the biggest flaws of the entire release. With the attention to detail and meticulous reproduction of a stop-motion look and feel, the depth of field is sometimes lost. We have scale and character definition and moving pieces but during a handful of scenes, it becomes very difficult to make out exactly what’s going on. Specifically certain sections of the breakout scene, wherein Wildstyle saves Emmet from being melted. She’s jumping all over the place, laser bolts are flying and all the while, the camera doesn’t pull focus properly and your eyes don’t know exactly where to look. On a similar note, the musical score is very appropriate, light and fun but lacks a distinct punch that solidifies it as memorable. This statement, of course, does not apply to “Everything Is Awesome” which is a pretty basic poppy track but one of the most insanely addictive and curiously annoying things in history. I mean, I kind of like it and it’ll get stuck in my head for hours at a time but I can’t explain what’s ‘good’ about it; other than it brings me back to a very charming story.
I think the key to this film is that absolutely nothing is forced. Batman turns up, feels perfectly normal. Audiences are subjected to father/son bonding, makes sense. Formulaic love triangle, resolves itself beautifully. The story is consistently funny and inventive from beginning to end and is imbued with the spirit of Lego. I realise that’s a potentially absurd thing to say but you’d be hard-pressed to find a child who has never played with Lego and then deviated from the specific instructions to create something original and spectacular. Everyone involved understands that premise and have gone out of their way to present it on-screen.
14th February 2014
The Scene To Look Out For:
**big ol’ smelly spoilers**
Morgan Freeman. The unofficial voiceover dude for planet Earth. A man who’s talents are best suited for exposition, charm and gentle old man derision. At no point would I have assumed that would include being a ghost. There are countless scenes, characters, lines and scenarios that are so amusing but almost all of them can be trumped by Morgan Freeman’s character being lowered on a piece of fishing wire with one of those glow-in-the-dark Lego pieces saying, “You didn’t let me finish.. because I died Wooooo!”
The Lego Movie is a true ensemble piece; the entire cast pitch in from tiny gimmicks (Charlie Day shouting SPACESHIP! for example) to the elaborate heartfelt monologues of the leads. Having said that, Will Arnett’s version of Batman is glorious. Every satirical, narcissistic, poignant observation about the character is exceptional and delivered expertly by Arnett. Part of me riled against the rest of the DC portrayals (Green Lantern is not the new Aquaman, damn it) and the complete absence of Marvel Lego figures but what are you gonna do? It’s a Warner Bros film.
“First rule of the sea, never put your rear end on a pirate’s face”
In A Few Words:
“When every property from the last few decades is being bought up and made into gritty PG-13/12a films, The Lego Movie is a fresh break from all the realism by bringing us something fun and truly nostalgic”